Germany made their way into the semifinals of Euro 2012 with a some-how unconvincing 4-2 win over an overmatched Greece side. Unconvincing may be an odd word to attach to a 4-2 victory, especially when the second Greek came on an 88th minute penalty.
But German coach Joachim Loew spent most of the first half visibly expressing is dissatisfaction with his team, as attack after attack failed to net a German goal. With virtually all of the match taking place in the shadow of the Greek goal shots sailed high and wide or went directly to the shaky Greek goalkeeper Sifakis.
It wasn’t even an especially heroic defensive effort from the Greeks that was keeping the Greek side of the scoreboard at zero, it was German wastefulness.
Finally in the 39th minute German captain Philip Lahm stepped forward, and when the Greek defense seemed to insist, Lahm shot. Lahm’s shot was a good, but not great one. But it was good enough to beat Sifakis even though the Greek keeper got hand to the ball.
Loew made several changes at the start of this match, despite his team’s perfect record in Group play. Mario Gomez had to be a bit confused to see Miroslav Klose take his spot after his three goals in group play. Attackers Reus and Shurrle were also included at the expense of regulars Podolski and Muller.
Most significantly Loew reinserted right back Jerome Boateng after his one game suspension. Lars Bender scored a big goal against Denmark as Boateng’s replacement, part of a fine individual performance. After Boateng’s disastrous outing tonight, Loew may be inclined to rethink the right back spot for the semifinal against Italy or England.
After as lopsided a 1-0 half of soccer as you are likely to see Greece made two switches of their own. Fanis Gekas and Gioris Fotakis came on to try their hand at stemming the German tide. But Germany quickly took charge on the restart, before Greece offered their fans a sliver of hope when Samaras and Gekas almost made something out of Greek attack.
Then in the 55th minute Greece shocked the German’s with a perfectly executed counter attack. Fotakis intercepted a German pass and chipped a beautiful pass to the onrushing Salpingidis. The Greek veteran slid a precise ball through the German goal mouth that the sliding Samaras finished past Manuel Neuer. Samaras badly beat a hapless Boateng to the ball and against all odds the game was contest again.
It didn’t stay that way for long. Sami Khedira saw to that with a fantastic volley just six minutes after Samaras struck for Greece. Boateng made the cross, but even his one good moment was a bit of a fluke, he overhit his intended target Klose.
Germany quickly added a third goal, this one from Klose, and at 3-1 the contest was pretty much decided. Marco Reus walloped a great goal to make it 4-1, making it two of Loew’s new additions to score on the day, Klose being the other.
Boateng then needlessly handled the ball in the penalty area, capping his bad day at the office. Salpindingis gratefully deposited the gift in the German goal, allowing Greece to go home on an up note.
Loew will have some decisions to make for the semifinal. Boateng was poor and if Loew makes a change, Bender would seem to have earned another start. His changes upfront all played fairly well, but Greece were poor and the wasteful first half finishing will be considered by Loew.